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Sri Lankan Spoof Mix

This spice blend was adapted from this David Tanis recipe in The New York Times It’s particularly important in my evolution as a nightshade free cook as it inspired sufficient longing that I finally buckled down and put a concerted effort into creating a tomato paste substitute.

You could just swap the cayenne for a double portion of Grains of Paradise and Indian long pepper, as discussed here. But as noted frequently across across The No Nightshade Kitchen, a simple substitution rarely carries the day. While we think of cayenne as primarily a heat source, it also travels with a more subtle pungency.

While exploring other regional spices as possible additions, I discovered the surprising complexity of red cardamom, which has a smoky aroma from its processing. At the front end the aroma is almost reminiscent of smoked paprika, though its flavor is more intensely floral. (If you can’t get ahold of red cardamom, go ahead and use black.) Grains of Paradise and Indian long pepper are also hard to come by. I like the combination, but you can also substitute one for the other.

The other issue with the Tanis recipe was that the spices were clearly scaled down from a much larger batch. I knew this because there is simply no kitchen I know of where you can you measure out whole cloves or allspice berries in quarter teaspoon increments. It simply can’t be done.

Spices are also harder to roast in smaller quantities—you’re much more likely to burn them. If you want to revert to a smaller quantity measurements, by all means do the math, but the easiest thing is to make a larger batch than what you need for just one meal. The resulting mixture keeps well in a glass jar for a few months, and you’re very likely to use it. Even if it winds up pushed to the back of your spice cupboard, you can usually just use a little more and you’ll get most of what you need flavor wise.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon green cardamom seeds
  • 1 teaspoon red cardamom seeds
  • 1 teaspoon allspice berries
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon Grains of Paradise
  • 1 teaspoon Indian long pepper
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric

INSTRUCTIONS

1Toasting spices is nothing you should multi-task. Heat a heavy saucepan—cast iron works best—over medium high heat. Have a spatula handy, oven mitts, and a cooling plate to allow quick removal from the heat.

2You’re going to toast all of the whole spices at once: cloves, fennel, cardamom, allspice, cumin, coriander, grains of paradise, and Indian long pepper. For best results add the larger spices—peppercorns, long pepper, and allspice—first. Cook for about a minute, then add the smaller spices. Shake or work quickly with the spatula to distribute the heat evenly and keep the spices from burning.

3When an aromatic smoke begins to appear—this may take only a few seconds—keep stirring for another beat or two, then scrape them quickly onto your cooling plate.

4DON’T TOAST THE TURMERIC!

5Let cool, then grind the toasted spices to a fine powder using an electric spice mill. A mortar & pestle would work too, but you’ll need to work on your technique to get the necessary fine grind. Then add the turmeric. Store in a sealed jar.

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